The Day My Life Changed – Part 3: The Truck

Here’s a link to Part 2, in case you missed it.

So, I drove the stupid truck. The weather sucked. It wasn’t exactly raining so much as misting. It was like Peru rain; just enough to run the wipers and make the road slick. In a truck that I was unfamiliar with that weighs like a million pounds. With an uneven load in it. Because the guys who loaded it don’t move stuff for a living (not a slam, God love them), but are a bunch of retail employees, accountants, and bankers. And, it was really windy. In a box truck. With the aerodynamics of a sail boat. I kept sipping on my Coke, trying to stay relaxed, despite feeling the load settling, and the wind rocking the NPR like a pirate’s ship in a storm on the high seas. With Jennifer leading the way, many-a-car cut between us to mash their brakes and hit an exit ramp, as though they wanted to get squashed by tons of video games. Despite my efforts, I white-knuckled that steering wheel all the way to our destination. Pulling into the gate at the Fairgrounds felt like the greatest accomplishment in the world. But, the trip wasn’t over yet.

I had never noticed how narrow the roads are at the Fairgrounds, but then, I’d always driven there in an imported compact car or compact truck, not the freaking Technodrome. I was doing okay until I went through this one intersection. I stopped at the stop sign, turned on the signal to turn right, and pulled out. Apparently, I didn’t swing out enough. I didn’t so much hit the stop sign, as scrape it. Incidentally, that stop sign was exactly at the same height as the rivets on the truck’s box, so, they strummed that stop sign like a guitar all the way down the box. Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop… Of course, from my perspective, it was more like, “pop *fuck* pop *fuck* pop *God, please make this stop!* pop *ooh fuck*, etc., et al. Some of our aforementioned millennials in the party were trailing, and I could hear them snickering in my mind.

By the time we got to the venue, I had to pull the seat cushion out of my butt crack and pry my fingers out of the grooves that I’d crushed into the steering wheel. Backing the freaking building on wheels into the State Fair building was no big deal as compared to dealing with traffic with it on the highway. We got the thing unloaded, and I threw the keys at someone, disavowing it for eternity. Through the morning, I found myself irritable, drowsy, nauseated, and foul. I continued to sip at my Coke until it was empty. I helped set up display cases, arcade cabinets, tables, and stuff in general. I drank some coffee. I took pictures, and some time lapse video. Someone brought in a couple bags from McDonald’s filled with sausage biscuits and cheeseburgers. I still had no appetite, but I felt like I should eat.

I picked out a cheeseburger and took a couple nibbles. It was hard to swallow. I was drinking a lot of water because I knew that dehydration was a real risk. The place looked great! There were a couple of cars that got staged in the building; a DeLorean, the actual yellow and blue Jeep pickup from the movie Twister, a Jeep done up in Jurassic Park theme. We continued to set up exhibitor tables with table cloths and everything we’d need for the weekend. Between setting up fixtures, and unloading gear, and taking pictures, I’d make my way back to that same cheeseburger and nibbled at it a little more, force it down. I’d developed a cough. I assumed that it was allergies from the dust stirred up from the tables and table cloths and storage contents. Jennifer asked the Twister truck owner if we could set a camera in the bed, and he assured us that there was no way we could hurt it. My cough kept getting worse. I’d kind of gag at the end of the cough. Nasty allergies!

Tomorrow, I’ll let you in on what this is all leading up to in Part 4.

The Day My Life Changed – Part 2: That Morning

If you missed yesterday’s post, with the backdrop to this crazy story, you can find it here.

Fast forward through the week. On Thursday, April 27, Jennifer and I intended to get to bed early, as we were planning to get up entirely earlier than we ever do, unless we intend to harvest venison. We didn’t get to bed early. I don’t even remember why. But, one way or another, shiny happened, and we stayed up later than intended. So, Friday morning, on April 28, 2017, the alarm went off at 4:30 or some God-awful time that I didn’t know they even made an “a.m.” for. We zombied our way out of bed, dressed our corpses, made coffee, and motored over to the storage unit. I’m pretty sure we got there at 5:30. Nobody else was there. So, we sat in the car with the windows down, enjoying the cool breeze, still trying to wake up, waiting for our young compatriots to join us. When 6:00 rolled around, we were still the only ones there. I started making phone calls and social media messages. I got a message back from the other RGS founding member.

“Um, the storage place doesn’t even open until 7:00. You might go grab breakfast,” his message read.

Well, crap. There was a McDonald’s about a half-mile down the street. When we got to the drive-through, Jennifer requested her regular Egg McMuffin with hash browns and coffee. I ordered a large Coke.

Jennifer asked, “you aren’t going to order food?”

“My stomach isn’t awake this early,” I answered, “I need more caffeine.”

So, Jennifer started munching on her food, and I started sipping on my drink, “my taste buds must not be awake either; this Coke tastes funny.” But, I kept drinking it.

By 7:00, other volunteers started rolling in, along with the rental truck. When I say “rental truck,” I don’t mean the half-ton you can get by the hour at Home Depot, or even the full-size box truck you can rent from Uhaul. I’m talking about a commercial Isuzu NPR. I don’t know what size engine it had, but I’m pretty sure it was the 5.2L. Big. Truck. As the sun rose, we loaded the truck with arcade cabinets, display cases, shelves, rubber balls, and miscellaneous stuff. I took some time lapse video of us loading the truck. I was starting to feel a little more awake; less numb, less tired. It actually felt good to get the door closed and latched on the truck. The first aforementioned founding RGS member approached me again.

“So,” he said, “all of us came in cars individually.”

“uhuh,” I said. I had a feeling I knew where this was going.

“So, I wondered,” he requested, “if you could drive the truck to the Fairgrounds… Because you’re the only ones who came in a car as a group…”

Crap. That’s where I thought this was going. I’d never driven anything as big as that stupid truck. For a time, I drove a one-ton diesel box truck a hundred miles, twice a day. I got cut off by Mini Coopers in that thing. They were nearly crushed like bugs. When I was a teenager, I drove a 1978 Lincoln Mark V. 6500-lbs, 18-ft long, 6.5-ft wide, 460 V8. I put SEVEN THOUSAND MILES on a Ford E350 Super Duty in TWO WEEKS. What I’m trying to say is that I’m not at all unfamiliar with large vehicles. But, that NPR was notably bigger than anything I’d been behind the wheel of. I was uncomfortable.

“I don’t really want to…” I looked at Jennifer.

She threw her hands in the air, “don’t look at me!” she said.

He said, “we really need you do do this.”

I was still sleepy enough that I couldn’t think of any good excuses, or simply say something to the effect of, “eff no.”

“You lead in the car,” I told Jennifer, “take the interstate, but stick to the right lane, and let’s not top 45mph. Please.”

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about the hilarious and harrowing trip in the giant truck in Part 3.

The Day My Life Changed – Part 1: Background

I’ve been actively taking first responder training for my whole life. I was in first-aid classes as a child. in my adult life, I’ve taken classes in CPR, AED, etc… For that matter, I know how to properly apply a tourniquet or chest seal. I’ve been taught how to respond to someone having a seizure. Jennifer and I have had opportunity to respond to other individuals seizing on two separate occasions. Thinking back, we could have responded better, but to my knowledge, both individuals made through it just fine. Any landing you can walk away from is a good one, right? So, I’ve seen seizures, but I had no idea what recovery was like.

Also, I’ve been healthy my entire life. I’m 39. I once had a baby tooth extracted, but I’ve never had surgery. I had a green stick fracture in a finger as a small child, when my finger got slammed in the back side of a door at church, but I’ve never broken a bone. I’ve had cuts and scrapes, but I’ve never had stitches. I’m not on any medications, and I have no significant allergies. Any time I’ve filled out a medical screening, it’s been “no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no….”

I’m redacting and/or changing names here, as I’ve asked no permissions, with the exception of my lovely wife, with whom I’ve been discussing this post for quite some time. Also, I won’t swear that any of this is perfectly accurate, but my memory and perception of events.

About four years ago, our teenage son asked about “vintage or retro video games, you know, the old ones…” So, Jennifer and I dug through our parents’ attics and got out our Atari 2600s, her original Nintendo NES, my original XBOX, and whatever other goodies we could find. The three of us got to playing the oldies. I went on a mission to the junk shops and garage sales, and wound up expanding the collection of stuff. It was good times. Jennifer forwarded me an email from work, in which they mentioned Super! BitCon, an upstart, local video game convention. Ticket prices were cheap, and they advertised an emphasis on older video games. We had to go. We spent entirely too much money. If memory serves me correctly, the first SNES game I ever purchased was “The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past,” in 2014. It was wonderful. After the event, I did a little social digging and we wound up involved with the Okc chapter of Retro Gamer’s Society (which is the original chapter, IIRC).

By the second year of Super! BitCon, Jennifer and I were the official leads of the Photography Team for the convention. That first (second) year, I didn’t have my own DSLR, so I borrowed my Dad’s first or second generation Canon Rebel with its kit lenses. The building was dark, and I felt totally outclassed, watching other photographers with their bleeding-edge Nikon and Canon gear. Regardless, I worked the aging gear and captured some beautiful and compelling images. There was already a spark telling me that I needed to pursue professional imagery work. This pretty well ignited the fire that pushed me down that rabbit hole.

So, for the last three years of Super! BitCon, we have been not only Photography Lead, but regular, workhorse volunteers for the convention. Fast forward to Saturday, April 22, 2017. We attended the final preparation meeting for the con. We had assembled our photography team. We were pensively ready. I was confident in the members of our team, but we were rag-tag. There were people that I wanted to get for the (fully volunteer) team that couldn’t make it, and one or two that I hadn’t initially counted on that jumped into the fray. We were good to go, though. As the other volunteers were shuffling out of the conference room to enjoy what was left of their Saturday, one of the club’s founding members caught my attention.

“What are you doing at six in the morning on Friday?” he asked me.

I laughed, “sleeping. That was my plan, anyway. Why? What do you have in mind?”

He tipped his head and said, “I wouldn’t not want you to be at the storage unit to help load the truck.”

“Hmmm…” I sighed, “I think we can probably work that out.”

Please do come back tomorrow, and I’ll tell you about how that morning played out, in Part 2.